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Bhopal: Officials kept CM in dark to get seal for smart city site

bhopal Updated: May 18, 2016 14:17 IST
Ranjan, Hindustan Times, Bhopal
Bhopal smart city project

Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan inspecting the new site for the smart city project in Bhopal on Tuesday. (Praveen Bajpai/ HT photo)

A few IAS officers selected Shivaji Nagar and Tulsi Nagar for the smart city project and got chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s approval in a hurry without informing him that residents and people’s representatives have not been consulted, said sources at the CM’s secretariat.

After protests from citizens, environmentalists and people’s representatives from the BJP, Chouhan announced on Monday that the smart city project would be moved to North TT Nagar, giving relief to the more than 50,000 residents of Shivaji Nagar and Tulsi Nagar.

Bhopal was selected among 20 cities for the Smart Cities Mission. A smart city will have advanced infrastructure, sustainable real estate, robust IT connectivity, affordable housing and sustainable environment, among others.

“Not seeking opinion of citizens and public representatives was a mistake,” said an IAS officer not willing to be named.

“When the proposal was sent a couple of months back, officers didn’t explain to the CM the pros and cons of the selection of the two localities.”

The CM, in his eagerness to implement the Narendra Modi government’s scheme, gave his nod to the selection of the localities. “The CM didn’t take into consideration the fact that the opinion of people’s representatives and residents was not sought by the special purpose vehicle (SPV) constituted for implementation of the project,” the officer said.

Residents, people’s representatives and civil society members later convinced the CM that the bureaucracy kept him in the dark on project’s adverse effects on environment.

“It was a power game -- displacing people who are living in the localities and getting others to replace them. Nobody was taken into confidence over selection of the localities,” said home minister Babulal Gaur who represents Govindpura seat in Bhopal.

“Mayor Alok Sharma sought my opinion on the smart city project but not on any location. I advised him that smart city clusters should be developed in all four directions of Bhopal with transport facilities, markets, hospitals and schools,” he said.

Residents and leaders told the CM that damage to environment would dent his image and that public resentment would hurt the BJP’s prospects in elections, sources said.

The Congress was looking for a chance to launch an agitation to consolidate its position in Bhopal. Congress leader PC Sharma started a campaign over the smart city project and party MLA from Bhopal North Arif Aqueel charged the government with neglecting the old city.

A senior IAS officer at the CM secretariat opposed the selection of the two localities and seeking the CM’s nod without taking feedbacks, but his advice was overlooked, sources said.

CM inspects new site, orders start of work

A day after announcing North TT Nagar as the new site for the smart city project, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, higher education minister Umashankar Gupta and mayor Alok Sharma visited the area on Tuesday.

After inspecting the proposed site, Chouhan directed the authorities concerned to start work on developing an open area under smart city’s project.

He said arrangements would be made to turn entire Bhopal into a smart city without destroying the natural beauty, greenery and open areas.

“In North TT Nagar, the smart city will be developed on vacant land,” he said.

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